I’m still unemployed. That’s not quite right because I’ve employed myself. I still haven’t found a job, except clients are signing up more frequently and I give myself a list of jobs everyday. I haven’t staunched the money flow, and that’s true; and I have the dwindling net worth to prove it. And yet I have hope.
Twelve months ago I began applying for jobs. I’ve been looking for over a year. Early in 2011 one of my largest holdings began a long slide. AMSC dropped 80%. I had a portfolio that I hoped was diversified and the companies were progressing, but the stocks were not except for AMSC and DNDN. As AMSC got bad news and fell I began talking about getting a job but didn’t do much about it. If a sweet job delivered itself I probably would’ve said yes, but I waited on DNDN.
Dendreon’s prostate cancer vaccine, Provenge, was approved by the FDA, was beginning to treat patients, and seemed to work better than expected. There were rumblings about the treatment’s acceptance because of reimbursement issues, but fundamentally the technology was sound and they would meet an unmet need. DNDN was trading at about $44, somewhat above its price from right after the approval but before they’d made any money. By August of 2011 they were on track to make hundreds of millions a year. At that rate DNDN could easily see a 20% or 40% rise within a few months. That exceeded my yearly credit card rate so I lived in optimism with a hint of caution and told myself to not fall into fear. The August earnings report could raise the price enough that selling a few hundred shares would clear my credit card debt and provide me with decades of frugal living expenses.
Dendreon made hundreds of millions, but only 80% of what the financial community expected. They missed earnings by 20%. The stock dropped 80%. (Triple Whammy) With AMSC down, DNDN down, and the others not rising to replace them (Hey MVIS, any time now) I had to scramble. (Tactical Scrambling) By the end of August I was sending out resumes regularly knowing that it might take months to find a job. But hey, even 20% of my original portfolio value gave me about a two year cushion. If I found a good job within three months things would be alright, or at least right enough. DNDN dropped another 50%. My cushion isn’t very cushy, and twelve months of using it to pay bills has left it very thin. I never expected the job search to take this long or for the stocks to remain depressed even as the companies grow their revenues by 60% a year. My credit card debt has swelled.
There is some good news. Prior to my last report (My Jobs Report Month 11) I’d only had two interviews. Both were for part-time jobs. One would only give me the job if I gave up applying for a full time job. The other was more accommodating, and I think I made the short list, but not the shortest list. The day I posted that report I received two calls for interviews. Two days later I heard good news from another application. Since then I’ve heard from another job or two. I even have an interview for a sweet job next week. Only one of the interviews was for a full time job. Fortunately, I live a frugal life and a part time job can go a long way. My next interview is for a job that pays enough to either make the mortgage payment or everything else. Any extra money will go to buying the luxury of paying down credit card debt.
People are finding jobs. Every job that I apply for and don’t get is probably another person moving out of unemployment because even if they were employed their departure opened another job. Eventually someone gets to pay the bills again. I will celebrate that, even if it isn’t me.
As I’ve written before, one of the aspects of this blog is to point out the reality behind the statistics. If I get a job, especially a sweet one, I will celebrate; but jobs aren’t equal. Most of the jobs I’ve heard back from are part time. Many of the jobs I apply for barely pay more than I made for pushing a broom in a steel mill outside Pittsburgh in 1977. I believe we’ve had a bit of inflation between 1977 and 2012. A part time job that pays half my bills would be a blessing, but I’ll have to continue searching for another equally large source of funds. People may have lost a job during the Great Recession, but they may have to gain back two or three to recover their finances. An unemployed aerospace engineer may get a job with the ferry system but he has to take a 50% hourly cut and only get 50% of full time hours. That 25% of his old salary may be a living wage, but it doesn’t allow nearly as much for savings, emergencies, or simple things like replacing old cars.
I am fortunate. My frugality means a reasonable part time job dramatically improves my situation. I am also aware of the value of a pleasant work environment. That steel mill job paid well because it was dangerous. Office environments can be toxic even if they keep the air clean. My portfolio is significantly reduced. Almost all of my DNDN is gone. But I continue to hold many shares of a half dozen other companies that are making progress despite low share prices. If someone buys my home for the asking price I can quickly become debt-free and have about a year’s living expenses too. My financial scenarios are definitely mixed.
My business is getting busier. I can’t remember the last time I took a day off. (My Rule Of 7) Income isn’t coming out of it yet, but some should be available after this big push for my next exhibit. (The premiere of Twelve Months at Double Bluff will be hosted by Raven Rocks Gallery in September. It is the culmination of a five year project photographing the overlooked everyday nature of Whidbey Island.) The shows at Raven Rocks and the subsequent Whidbey Island Open Studio Tour are major events in my art business calendar. (You can also see and buy via the online galleries too.) I’m definitely heartened by the increasing number of people that are hiring me as a consultant or paying me as an instructor or speaker. My business is a healthy way to make money and have a positive impact on the world. It fits in nicely with a part time job. Others aren’t so fortunate enough to have years of effort behind their sudden need for finding income.
I take less for granted than I did before. Words of encouragement are nice. Connections have been appreciated. Incidental supplies like a bit of lumber to repair a deck, or some potting soil for some vigorous plants, even having dinner at my house instead of asking me to drive and dine out are all worth more than they may seem. I’m still learning to get comfortable accepting money for non-art and non-consulting things, but I do appreciate the help.
There are still days when I lay my head on the desk as I try to figure out how to pay bills. Mondays near the end of the month are the worst. But paydays, whether from sweet jobs in my community, enjoyable consulting jobs, passive sales of books and photos, and maybe even a recovered portfolio may finally arrive and add up to be enough for now, and then to build back to enough for a future.
Oh yeah, and I’m continuing the Find A Friend A Job category. Feel free to nominate yourself for an interview. Here’s Jennifer Hopper’s.
Hey Tom I really enjoyed your post, do you mind if I retweet it? There are many people that I know are in the same boat that I think it could really encourage. It has been a hard few years for us looking at our dwindling portfolios, I have always been impressed with your resourcefulness and upbeat attitude, I know it will only be a matter of time before thinks turn around for you. Good luck with your job search and your books, let us know when your the details for your launch in September, I would love to come and support you.
Retweet at will! And you’ll definitely hear about the shows, openings, and launches – and congratulations on your recent success too.